A third of Europeans breathing polluted air

A new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) says a lot of work still has to be done to tackle air pollution that is damaging to human health.

Although emissions of particulate matter fell across the EU between 2002 and 2011, 33% of European citizens still live in areas with higher particle content in the air than the EU’s permitted maximum. If the World Health Organisation’s stricter but non-obligatory threshold is used, 88% of EU citizens live in areas that are over the limit. Particles, which come largely from diesel engines but also from wood for heating, are responsible for health problems ranging from asthma to cancer as well as reduced crop yields and damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.

EU hitting emissions reduction target early

In a separate report, the EEA says the EU had almost achieved its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target by 2012 – eight years early. The EU is committed to reducing its 1990 emissions levels by 20% by 2020. EEA data shows that emissions in 2012 were 18% lower than in 1990. If current measures stay in place, the 2020 goal will be overshot by 21%.